My brother’s photography

Self-Publshed Photography, Autumn 2014, Gold Creek, Colorado

Here is a self-published book of my brother’s photos, taken near Ohio City, Colorado near Gunnison. He’s taught film and photography in Texas high schools until his retirement as well as photography to adults at Gunnison College in Gunnison, Colorado summers. He has two master’s degrees in photography–one in color processes and one in journalistic photography.

Charles’s  best photography subjects have always been nature and his own family. He’s not one who’s a teacher, not a doer. The opposite! The back page of the book of his recent photos should be dedicated to the 40 trees he’s planted on their country place in Texas.

It’s not just the trees, though. He knows wood through close examination of grains and through use in building both structures (homes, rooms, decks) and furniture. His work there is also beautiful.  He sees the beauty in the woods he uses and tries to bring that out in the structures and pieces he makes.

He doesn’t think small when it comes to projects. He’s taken numerous old houses and given them new life with his building skills and built one home from scratch. I watched as he and a friend loaded huge logs, by hand, onto a truckbedk in Colorado from their logging.

These were “found” cuttings in that they were part of firebreak cutting that helps maintain nearby forests rather than having them go up in smoke. He uses this “found” wood to build and sculpt beautiful, useful things.

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Home is Where You Plant Yourself

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I moved back to Austin last spring (April 2014), and spent one (last) summer in Texas. The heat and humidity are something Texans should be proud of their courage to suffer!

I did so for many years but, finally, in older age, I began to get skin rashes (sebaceous dermatitis) that required courses of cortisone and corticosteroid shots. I decided in 2012 to move further west where I knew the air was drier and where any sweat would be wicked away as soon as it appeared. I tried Santa Fe and Taos for two years. The winters were just a bit much for this former Texan.

Now, I have arrived at Silver City, in southwestern New Mexico, elevation 5,000+ feet, a year-round mild climate and all four seasons. In northern New Mexico, Santa Feans are known as “winter wimps.” I guess I’m a bit more than a winter wimp!

I’m so glad to have arrived where fall is still warm (but not too hot), where the skies are New Mexico blue, and the sunsets are, well, just plain fabulous! Where the overlooks in town are hilly and high enough for 360 views.  Where there’s hiking along the Big Ditch and hilly areas in town and also in nearby mountain forests less than 10 miles from town, in the Gila National Forest.

Best of all, there are two rockhound state parks nearby–City of Rocks and Rockhound State Park. At the latter, guests are allowed to cart out 15 pounds of rock that they’ve found or mined themselves. While definitely on the dry side, there are rivers and lakes nearby as well.  Also nearby are the Gila Cliff Dwellings, located in the Gila National Forest about 44 miles from Silver City.

And it’s greener than I expected! This year, there were even floods in and near Silver City from El Nino/El Nina drought/flood cycles so familiar to Texans.

I arrived in mid-October, spent one night in my car in the parking lot at Walmart, then went to the Unitarian Universalist church next day. A small, friendly congregation welcomed me and offered real help, not just advice! I was put up for a couple of nights, then referred to the downtown mission’s women’s shelter.  I can stay here until I have an apartment of my own, possibly as soon as November 3.

The town is small enough that people have country-friendly ways and take the time to chat and help their neighbors.  If I’d come here 30-35 years ago, when I actually had a dream one night about Silver City, I might not have appreciated all it has to offer today. Even two years in Santa Fe and Taos feel like preparation for living here.

I’m planning on staying! Even nomadic types need a home, a place from which to branch out into the world.

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Santa Fe Skies and Photos – Selection








































IMG_6789These are just a few of the photos I’ve taken in and around Santa Fe in the past year.

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Ohio City, Colorado

At Pond, Quartz Creek

Carole had a workshop to give in Gunnison, so I rode with her and Michael to a spot where Mildred, my sister-in-law, could pick me up and take me to their place in Ohio City near the Gunnison-Crested Butte area.

This is the first time I’d visited my brother’s place in Colorado, though I’d visited when he used to teach photography to adults in the summers in Gunnison and they’d lived in unoccupied dormitory rooms for the summers.

In Ohio City, Charles and Mildred bought an older home, did some rebuilding and revamping, and created a very comfortable mountain home with a triple-level deck, a small bridge across a mountain stream, several outdoor fireplaces and cookout areas and a forest in the front yard.

The entrance is a plain dirt road off the road from Gunnison to Pitkin, just past an historic building. This immediately becomes more dramatic when you take the first curve and see a one-hole golf course laid out in the front yard among the tall firs.

The golf course has reasons beyond recreation. A mountain stream and waterfall, Gold Creek, runs through their property and they have certain water rights associated. However, to retain their water rights, they must utilize the water. Hence, the well-watered golf course.

I was put up in a split-level “game room” which I had to myself for the duration. The game room was well-supplied with futon couch and bed, cable tv, foosball game, and student-sized refrigerator and microwave. In fact, these accommodations were the closest to bed and breakfast inn-type luxury of the entire trip.

Some of their furniture is made (appropriately, you’ll see) from large logs (the Gunnison-Crested Butte area is a former mining and logging area gone to tourism). The large-log couch arms made great coffee mug rests. I settled in to write about my New Mexico travels in the privacy I was afforded, another luxury I haven’t quite had since.

Add Mildred’s evening dinners, tours to Pitkin, lunch in Crested Butte, a shopping trip to a second-hand store in Gunnison for a few more warm things, and you might begin to think I was a pretty spoiled guest in the lap of luxury. You’d be right!

Crested Butte Mountain, Crested Butte, Colorado

Did I mention their attempts to add exercise to my daily routine?

Both my brother Charles and Mildred are outdoor types who love nothing more than a good workout through some sort of recreational sport, hiking in the mountains and, in my brother’s case, logging trees marked for fire-break removal.

One of the first outings was a mountain bike ride. It was an uphill ride on the Gold Creek road into the mountains by their home. Thankfully, they were electric mountain bikes. The road itself appears deceptively flat, but once you’re on it, the gradual incline makes for an almost all-uphill ride. On the way down, it’s non-stop coasting past old mine structures, Gold Creek, and a few homes and other structures.

Several stories let me know we were no longer in “civilization” though the appearance of homes along the road might indicate otherwise. First, Mildred told about her daily walks with a couple of friends up this same road.

One day, on the way back home, she noticed she was being “stalked” by a mountain lion following her progress from high ledges along the hill above the road, all the way until she reached home.

My brother also pointed out the bear marks on trees and along their glass front door. But he made sure to tell me that the mountain lion was a more real and present danger. They showed me the deer carcass, a fairly recent mountain lion kill, just across the irrigation ditch and across the road easy walking distance from their house.

Those stories certainly gave me caution every time I went from the garage area to the house. If it had been a cat, I’d say leaving an animal body nearby could be seen as a proud gift to the human, but I’m pretty sure the same could not be said about the deer carcass.

On one drive, we went up to an area called Quartz Creek Properties. My brother’s house was already at 8,600 feet elevation, and Quartz Creek started around 9,000 feet.
We met friends of theirs driving up to their home past the pond and made plans to go back to their place another day.

The day we went back, my brother was clear-cutting trees that had been officially marked for fire-break removal, to keep fires from jumping the roads up in the mountains where there were pine forests and fire danger. For a week or so, he and their friend, Keith, logged the area near Keith’s home. In the end, Charles said he was allowed to keep around $3,000 worth of logs for doing the work themselves.

I should explain here that my brother has built several homes, refurbished others to the point of rebuilding them, built kitchen cabinets and other furniture, and built a grand big-log ranch entrance to the home of a Senator who summers nearby. These logs will most surely become future projects!

The home at the logging site was situated at the top of a fairly steep hill above the pond, so we walked down the hill toward the pond. The fall colors were spectacular! Yellow, rose and red-tipped aspen and cottonwood trees were all turning at the same time and the hills were golden.

On the way back from the pond, I met my mountain nemesis, altitude sickness, for the first time. Not fully adjusted yet to the high altitude, despite my gradual progress through New Mexico, I had to stop literally every few steps to rest and breathe, until ready to go a bit further. Thankfully, it was a short distance to the top.

Friends of Charles and Mildred’s came over the last evening I was there and we sat around one of the outdoor fires with s’mores, hot chocolate and conversation, capping off a perfect mountain visit.

I caught up on my rest in Ohio City, which was much needed, as it turned out, for the next leg of the journey to Salt Lake City, where I experienced real snags and the first personal tests of the journey.

Quartz Creek trail

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Ode to the American Southwest

by Jenell Scherbel

Stitched together, the Four Corners
weave an earth blanket of
ochre, gold and reds
dressed in deep blue-green
shot through with streaks of
chartreuse and yellow
softened by sage smoke and
pine-cone browns and juniper
green-gold, adorned with
blue aster stars and white daisies
under a blue Southwestern sky –
so blue.

Humans enter this landscape as guests,
invited for a limited time to dwell
in this ancient land, larger than our
skyscraping ambitions – a land not ours
though we’ve probed her for gold,
mined her minerals, washed in her
mountain springs, and walked in
proprietary aspect through her
vast spaces of deserts, mountains, and
forests – magnificent land and majestic –
all the superlatives apply and
do not yet describe how, here,
humans are humbled, mere earthling
visitants in a world of beauty and
great threat.

Both abundant beauty and awareness
of our own mortality rise up to face us
in these vast spaces, utterly un-man-made, and
as in Wordsworth’s “Ode, Intimations of Immortality
from Recollections of Early Childhood,” we
stand awestruck among the great rocks of
millennial earth, “And O, ye Fountains,
Meadows, Hills, and Groves, Forebode
not any severing of our loves! Yet in my heart
of hearts I feel your might;” no longer innocent
of mortal knowledge, yet once more finding
Nature in ourselves, courage to love, and
strength to survive.


The reference and quote are from William Wordsworth’s
“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” first printed in full for Wor_dsworth’s 1807 collection of poems, Poems, in Two Volumes, under the title Ode.[9

The full version of the poem, and Wordsworth’s own explanation of its origins, are below:

Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

William Wordsworth
Complete Poetical Works

This was composed during my residence at Town-end, Grasmere. Two years at least passed between the writing of the four first stanzas and the remaining part. To the attentive and competent reader the whole sufficiently explains itself; but there may be no harm in adverting here to particular feelings or ‘experiences’ of my own mind on which the structure of the poem partly rests. Nothing was more difficult for me in childhood than to admit the notion of death as a state applicable to my own being. I have said elsewhere–

“A simple child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death!”–

But it was not so much from feelings of animal vivacity that ‘my’ difficulty came as from a sense of the indomitableness of the Spirit within me. I used to brood over the stories of Enoch and Elijah, and almost to persuade myself that, whatever might become of others, I should be translated, in something of the same way, to heaven. With a feeling congenial to this, I was often unable to think of external things as having external existence, and I communed with all that I saw as something not apart from, but inherent in, my own immaterial nature. Many times while going to school have I grasped at a wall or tree to recall myself from this abyss of idealism to the reality. At that time I was afraid of such processes. In later periods of life I have deplored, as we have all reason to do, a subjugation of an opposite character, and have rejoiced over the remembrances, as is expressed in the lines–

“Obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;” etc.

To that dream-like vividness and splendour which invest objects of sight in childhood, every one, I believe, if he would look back, could bear testimony, and I need not dwell upon it here: but having in the poem regarded it as presumptive evidence of a prior state of existence, I think it right to protest against a conclusion, which has given pain to some good and pious persons, that I meant to inculcate such a belief. It is far too shadowy a notion to be recommended to faith, as more than an element in our instincts of immortality. But let us bear in mind that, though the idea is not advanced in revelation, there is nothing there to contradict it, and the fall of Man presents an analogy in its favour. Accordingly, a pre-existent state has entered into the popular creeds of many nations; and, among all persons acquainted with classic literature, is known as an ingredient in Platonic philosophy. Archimedes said that he could move the world if he had a point whereon to rest his machine. Who has not felt the same aspirations as regards the world of his own mind? Having to wield some of its elements when I was impelled to write this poem on the “Immortality of the Soul,” I took hold of the notion of pre- existence as having sufficient foundation in humanity for authorising me to make for my purpose the best use of it I could as a poet.

“The Child is Father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.”
See “My Heart Leaps up When I Behold.”


THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;–
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.


The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.


Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the Echoes through the mountains throng,
The Winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every Beast keep holiday;–
Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy


Ye blessed Creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel–I feel it all.
Oh evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning,
And the Children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the Babe leaps up on his Mother’s arm:–
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
–But there’s a Tree, of many, one,
A single Field which I have looked upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The Pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?


Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.


Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a Mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.


Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ Darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little Actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his “humorous stage”
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.


Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy Soul’s immensity;
Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,–
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths do rest,
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the Day, a Master o’er a Slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!


O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest–
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:–
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realised,
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty Thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Are yet a master light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the Children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.


Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.


And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquished one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the Brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripped lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet;
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

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Reading on the Road

I haven’t entirely lost my taste for reading matter during travels, though it’s definitely taken a back seat.  At Carole’s, I read one New Yorker story set in London, with inklings of Spanish and Moroccan settings—a  simple commoner’s love story set amid shady brokers, low crimes, and hit men.

This story swept me away in spirit from the grand Taos mountain surroundings into the intimacy between two people whose private love notes, call and response, are hidden away in a notebook tucked into a drawer and not spoken of until the story’s last moments.

“Good Book,” by Keith Ridgway, The New Yorker, April 11, 2011

“They couldn’t talk.  They were not good talkers, either of them.  And once, long ago now, she had bought a notebook for a course.  It lay empty and forgotten on the kitchen table until one afternoon, when she had gone out to the shops and he was worried that she would be killed by a bus or by lightning, he opened the notebook and he wrote lines about how he loved her, the way he loved her. . . All that. . .

And it wasn’t until about a week later that he noticed it again, and he flicked it open, and he saw his lines followed by lines from her.  She’d written words that she had never said . . . It was like the book freed stuff up, allowed it to happen, that the tenderness was covered, they had it covered, they had all the love and kindness and gentleness covered, and the sex became something else.”

Tony O’Brien’s Light in the Desert:  Photographs from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert


Tony O’Brien, Meditation

I found the next piece among New Mexico arts/culture magazines, an interview with Tony O’Brien, photographer and author of Light in the Desert:  Photographs from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, published fall 2011 by the Museum of New Mexico Press.  (More on the arts magazine at:

O’Brien had been a well-known war correspondent who took assignments in Northern Ireland, Central America, India, Pakistan, and, finally, Afghanistan, where he was subsequently captured by the Afghan Secret Police and imprisoned for six weeks.

While confined, O’Brien interacted at length with his cellmate, Nadr Ali, a devout Muslim, and they  exchanged profound thoughts and shared beliefs on freedom, family, and faith,  The encounter changed him fundamentally and forever.

On his return to Santa Fe, O’Brien sought refuge and a measure of closure on his capture experiences by taking a photographic journey into the lives of Benedictine monks living in the high desert countryside of New Mexico.  He was accepted into the community, assigned his own “cell,” and took part in daily routines of prayer, silence, and manual labor.

Publication of O’Brien’s work coincides with an exhibition, Contemplative Landscape, at the New Mexico History Museum showing “twenty of O’Brien’s photographs recently donated to the Photo Archives at the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum by the Scanlon Foundation.”[1]

Excerpt from near the close of the interview:

“Padilla:  Would Christ in the Desert be what it is without the landscape?

O’Brien:  I don’t think it would.  Part of it is the landscape, the canyon.  There is spirituality there, just as there is spirituality throughout New Mexico, that comes from pre-Hispanic times.  You see history in the canyon walls, and not just the last few hundred years, but throughout the history of this world.

On the one hand, it’s beautiful, it’s magnificent.  And yet it’s hard, it’s rugged, it’s not easy country, it’s unforgiving.  I remember trying to think about how do I incorporate the landscape into this, how do I make it fit.  I was almost more frightened about trying to photograph the landscape than I was about photographing the monks.”

The interview closing:

“Padilla:  What do you want people to take away from your book?

O’Brien:  Less of me, more of the monks and the monastery.  I would hope people would be able to sit with it and just be quiet for a while.  The idea of hospitality, of taking time out of the work day.  The idea of community, that life is a journey.  That it’s the little things, not the big things, it’s bit by bit, and if you want an answer, then you’ve got to go somewhere else.

I think I was given an extraordinary gift.  The book is done, but the journey continues. I’m still looking for the light every day.”[2]

Information about the publication can be found at:
View O’Brien’s photos in the Verve Gallery, room 3 site at:

 “Trying to Photograph God, Tony O’Brien with Carmella Padilla,” an interview in El Palacio, Art, History, and Culture of the Southwest, Fall 2011, Vol 116, No. 3.

[2]   From “Trying to Photograph God, Tony O’Brien with Carmella Padilla,” an interview in El Palacio, Art, History, and Culture of the Southwest, Fall 2011, Vol 116, No. 3, pp. 32-33.


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